Publication: Pastoral Letter, January 2006
Dear Friend in Christ:
Thank you for your faithful support last year. The Lord spoke to me that 2005 would be a year of tests_it certainly was. For our family personally, we faced my wife, Carolyn’s diagnosis of cancer, and local hurricanes among other issues. Nationally, we’ve faced the war in Iraq, terrorism, and many other challenges. Through it all, we have received the grace of God.
CSM was able to raise approximately $200,000 for hurricane relief, thanks to God’s grace and your generous support. You stepped up, and together, we were able to support numerous churches and families who experienced severe loss. I also want to thank you for praying for Carolyn. Your love has been overwhelming. Her most recent scan showed no cancer. Praise God! Please continue to pray for her total healing.
Because what the Lord said to me about last year came to pass, I have been sensitive to what He might say about 2006. In the latter part of last year, the Lord used two different people to say something to me. One person, whom I did not know, spoke to me that I should not worry about my family or my schedule; that God would take care of both. This man further said that God would do something special in 2006 and I would be part of it. That gave me a sense of great anticipation.
Another person spoke to me that I should cry out to God for His purpose. The word was intense and seemed to connect with something special that God wanted me to do. Now you need to know that after 50 years of ministry, I am careful about personal prophesies; however, both of those who spoke to me had credibility and care in delivering the message_and they spoke to what I believe to be true.
Another interesting thing about ’06 is that we have planned our Leadership Conference for Gatlinburg, TN, April 26-28, and the theme is “Reconciliation.” Bob Mumford of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Terry Virgo from England, have agreed to speak. Since we announced this, there has been an unusually strong response. (You are invited to this conference_contact CSM to register or visit our website at www.csmpublishing.org.) I have great respect for these men and how God will use them.
DAWN BRINGS REALITY
Recently, I was speaking to a local congregation on the problem of evil, the problem of slumber, and the possibilities of the “dawn”, and I dwelled on the fact that the dawn brings reality (see Romans 13:11-14). As I spoke to people, I realized that the Lord was speaking to me. Before the Lord brings us to where He wants us to be, He must first show us where we are. Repentance is the result of seeing reality. The Lord’s view, and not ours, is reality.
Webster defines reality as “the actual state of affairs, what is genuine as opposed to fictitious.” Tests are designed to show us reality. I realized that prior to my wife’s diagnosis, we were in a measure of unreality. Then, I wondered if there were other areas of unreality. Any blindness in the face of growing danger is lethal.
While reality can be harsh, it is also redemptive, if we do not wait too long to see it. Once we see the truth, we can seek the Lord for steps to take that will lead us to solid ground. This creates a new reality that becomes a testimony to His goodness and mercy.
As I meditated on what the Lord had spoken to me about reality, I thought of the Laodicean Church (see Revelation 3:14-22). He said to that church, “You say that you are rich, have become wealthy and need nothing and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind or naked.” The operative phase here is, “do not know.” It is what we do not know, that can seriously harm us.
Their view was, “Everything is Awesome!” God’s view was “It is awful!” What a contrast. Perhaps they only heard those who reinforced their self-esteem. They would not listen to correction_so they lived in unreality. Their “lukewarmness” nauseated the Lord. Harsh? Yes, sometimes it takes that to jar us into reality and save our lives. Danger calls for clear warning_loud if necessary.
The Laodiceans were proud of their spirituality, but Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” I believe He was saying that God favors those who realize their spiritual poverty. What the Lord is doing here for the Laodiceans, and for us, is to bring them and us to a place where we see our need, seek His face, and turn from our own ways.
The Lord will not leave us under guilt, condemnation, and darkness; He offers redemptive counsel. Notice the counsel that He offers the Laodiceans:
“Buy from me.” True riches come from God and we need to “pay the price” to seek Him. The price is priority, time, energy, honesty, and repentance.
Refined gold: God’s wealth is tested truth. What He offers is proven resources rather than fads, fantasy, trends, and wishful thinking. The human perspective, good or bad, is seriously flawed. I also note that while God wants us to see where we are, He also desires to give us reliable wealth.
“White garments”_The Lord is speaking of true righteousness as opposed to “self-righteousness (see Isaiah 64:6). Our only righteousness is Christ_spiritual pride stems from thinking about what we have done_instead of what He did. If we continue to boast in ourselves, our nakedness will be uncovered.
“Eye Salve”_The oil of the Spirit opens our eyes to what the Spirit sees. The scripture tells us that “Eye has not seen,” but by His Spirit it is revealed. We need a fresh anointing that will produce clear vision. Biblical examples of encounters with God indicate a dramatic change of view.
“Be zealous and repent”_Once the Lord shows us our unrealities, we must renounce them and move toward His view of our lives and purpose…quickly!
Notice that the Lord addresses three areas: Resources, righteousness, and vision. Reality in these areas is the basis for moving ahead in the Lord’s will. A good way to pray is, “Lord prepare me to see the truth, receive it, and obey. Take me from where I am to where you want me to be.”
The Lord warned Israel not to build on sand, but they did just that_they built on appearance. The Apostle Paul warned, “Be careful how you build.” (See Matthew 7:24-29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.) Our foundation is in Christ and what He has said to us. In the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew chapters 5-7), Jesus gives about 20 foundational principles. While I will not discuss them here, He begins with our need to realize our spiritual poverty, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness. He blesses true humility.
C.J. Mahaney has written a very good book: Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah). Humility opens us to hear from God and those He would use to speak to us. Pride closes our eyes and ears. The Bible is loaded with the priority of humility. It is humility that enables us to build on Christ (see Psalm 34:2).
Philippians chapter 2 tells us to have the same attitude that Jesus had. Though He was God, He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. There are seven steps down into His being accursed for us. Then the Father exalted Him_seven steps up. I encourage you to study this powerful text. God exalted Jesus above every name, that every knee would bow before Him and confess that He is Lord.
So the Lord Himself shows us that if we humble ourselves, He will exalt us. Conversely, if we exalt ourselves, He will help us to come down to reality_the hard way. In the kingdom of God, the way up is down. If Christ is our foundation and His words the basis for our actions, then we are ready for whatever ‘06 brings. What’s more, we are ready to do His will. He wants to get us in shape for the “final push” to extend the Gospel of His Kingdom to all nations and people groups.
While we are before God, it is a good time to look at everything: Personal relationships, family, finances, attitudes, church life, community life, participation in national moral issues, and much more. And the Lord is likely to address something not even on our list.
HIS WAY WORKS
Again, why does the Lord want us to be willing to see all areas of our lives? Is He a “Hard Master?” Not at all. He has been abundantly gracious to us even in our weakness. His purpose is good for us. His will is better than ours. He desires the best for us. The best thing that we could possibly do for ourselves, our families and friends, is to be open to God, spiritually, mentally, and physically (don’t neglect the physical).
It is our enemy who says, “You don’t need that from God,” or “I’m OK, you are OK,” or “You’re awesome!” He feeds our pride because He knows that pride blinds us and leads us to a fall. Is this an old fashioned teaching? You bet, but it is also biblical. Obviously, I do not buy into self-centered psychosis. Encouragement? Yes! Blowing smoke? No!
If we do humble ourselves and pray and seek His face, 2006 will become a year of great blessing and harvest. We will see strongholds broken; the enemy will flee seven ways. God will bare His Holy Arm and everyone will see it. This is what we all want to see. But remember, the way up is down. If we get real with God, He will get real with us. It’s the right time to check in for a check-up.
I thank you again for giving me an opportunity to say to the nations what I believe that the Lord is saying to me. And, I thank you for your financial support and prayers. I especially thank you for your prayers for Carolyn. She has had great support and a great attitude.
Because of your faithfulness, we have been able to publish for nearly 37 years. Having said that, I add the words from “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, which say, “FORBID it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God; All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”
Scripture Reference: Romans, Revelation, Isaiah, Matthew, 1 Corinthians, Psalms, Philippians,